In a recent interview on The Early Show, Barack Obama offered his prescription for solving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program:
It is so important for us to have a coherent policy with respect to Iran. It has to combine much tougher threats of economic sanctions with direct diplomacy, opening up channels of communications so that we avoid provocation, but we give strong incentives for the Iranians to change their behavior. We’ve got to have aggressive diplomacy that unfortunately has been absent over the past several years.
Perhaps Obama has not been paying attention, but “aggressive diplomacy” has been tried for a number of years now. With America busy in Afghanistan and Iraq, the effort has been led by Great Britain, France and Germany – the so-called “EU-3” – who put together an intensive diplomatic drive to talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. As part of the negotiating process, hundreds of meetings and countless working sessions took place. Ideas were exchanged and incentive packages were offered; sanctions were threatened and then called off; proposals and counterproposals were made.
Then in October 2003, the foreign ministers of Great Britain, Germany and France travelled to Tehran to meet with Iranian government officials. After the meeting it was announced that Iran had agreed to stop producing enriched uranium. As part of the deal, Iran also agreed to sign a binding document – the so-called Additional Protocol – which would allow the International Atomic and Energy Agency (IAEA) regular access to the country’s nuclear sites.
The agreement was hailed as a great success. George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, had this to say about it on PBS’ Newshour:
Basically the international system is working the way it's supposed to work when someone breaks the rules… [W]e had a good cop/bad cop situation where three foreign ministers from Europe went to Iran saying, look, you're in a lot of trouble; it's going to get worse if you don't go forward with the demands and meet the demands. And that's where we are today.
Notwithstanding the enthusiasm, it soon became obvious that Iran had no intention to abide by its promises. Undeterred by the setback, the European diplomats did what all good diplomats do under such circumstances: they continued negotiating.
A year later, after redoubled efforts and many additional rounds of talks, a new breakthrough was seemingly achieved. On November 15, 2004, it was reported that Iran had agreed to put a stop to its uranium enrichment program. The news was greeted excitedly by the world media. CNN was among the first to report:
Iran has agreed to fully suspend its uranium enrichment program, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hasan Rohani announced Sunday, a move that could improve Iran's relations with the West.
The report then quoted a European diplomat who complacently declared that “the Europeans got, more-or-less, what they had been seeking from Iran.”
The diplomats celebrated and the world breathed a sigh of relief. It appeared that the Europeans’ diplomatic skill would indeed carry the day and bring about a successful resolution to the long-standing crisis.
Once again, however, the hopes proved false, because in the months that followed Iran refused to honor its pledge despite the increasingly desperate pleadings from the European negotiators.
Finally on April 11, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium. He broke the news in a televised speech from the city of Mashhad: "I am officially announcing that Iran joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology."
Subsequently Ahmadinejad made a series of disturbing statements which gave an indication as to how he may use his country’s newly-acquired nuclear technology.
On October 19, 2006, Ahmadinejad said that Israel “will be gone, definitely.” On November 13, 2006, Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran “will soon witness [Israel's] disappearance and destruction.” The following month, he predicted that Israel was “on the verge of disappearing.” And just a few weeks ago he once again threatened that Israel “has come to the end of its road and will soon be wiped off the map of the world...”
Israel, however, is not the only target of Ahmadinejad’s threats. By repeatedly asking his audiences to imagine a world without the United States, the Iranian president has implied that America may not get off scot-free once his regime is in possession of full nuclear capabilities.
It speaks volumes that the Iranians acquired nuclear technology and made all these genocide-laden threats even as they were being diplomatically engaged by our European friends.
Obama should ask himself whether all these years of intensive diplomacy have worked. And even though it has been an utter failure, more diplomacy is precisely what he thinks is needed.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Barrack Obama and his liberal friends apparently never learn. They think that by being nice to evil men they will get them act nice.
This is what the French and the British thought when they faced Hitler. They negotiated, they made concessions, they signed agreements, and they believed his promises. The result was a world war that cost more than 40 million lives.
Perhaps their naïveté at that time can be partially excused by the fact that Hitler never advertised his genocidal schemes. Unlike the Iranian president, he never openly spoke of annihilating anyone. On the contrary, until the very last moment Hitler portrayed himself as a man of peace. As late as 1939 he would make statements such as “we have but one wish – that in the coming years we may be able to make our contribution to this general pacification of the whole world.”
This should make us pause. If a self-proclaimed peacenik could unleash devastation on the scale of WWII, imagine what a committed genocidiac could do with weapons whose destructiveness far exceeds anything Hitler could ever dream of.
But what makes Ahmadinejad especially dangerous is his eschatological frame of mind. He will not be deterred – like the Soviets were – by the fact that his country may be destroyed in response to nuclear aggression. Such considerations are only secondary, for what Ahmadinejad really wants is the Mahdi.
For those who haven’t heard, the Mahdi is a kind of Islamic messiah who – according to devout Shi'ite Muslims – is fated to bring justice and peace to this world. He is the same figure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so passionately invoked during his United Nations speech in September 2006. Also known as the 12th imam, the Mahdi is said to be currently residing in a well in the Iranian city of Qom where he descended in 941 AD at the age of nine. It is to this well that Ahmadinejad goes to pray and into which he lowered several members of his cabinet in order to infuse them with divine energy. Ahmadinejad is reportedly convinced that an Armageddon-like conflict would hasten the Mahdi’s coming.
But eschatologically-minded Islamists are not the only deluded ones here. So are those who think that by kindness and diplomacy they can change their minds.